Monday, February 28, 2011

One man with one heart

Yom sheni, 24 Adar aleph 5771.

Last week, I indulged in being "aim habanim smaicha," a happy mother of children.  Two different armies played a role in the week's adventures: soldiers preparing to defend our country, and "gridiron warriors," keeping American sport alive and well in Israel.  The natural joy a mother feels when she watches her children becoming fully themselves was enhanced by the camaraderie among their fellows.

This post will honor the young football heroes.  They are heroes to me -- not because they are brave and fearless and stupid.  ("Please, Coach!  Send me in there to defend a cylindrical object from several gigantic guys, so that they can all land on me with their full weight as they try to pry the ball from my frozen and possibly bleeding fingers!"  Football is a game that only a few very special women can truly understand.  I am not among this elite group.)  These young men are my heroes because even under fire, they remember who they are, and what they stand for.

Due to my work, this was the first time I have ever been able to watch my son, Sports Guy, play the game he eats and sleeps and lives and breathes.  While this post is not about him, let me take a self-indulgent mommy moment.  He was really beautiful to watch on the field.  Since I don't understand the game, I had the luxury of focusing only on him.  (I could only recognize him by the golden shoes, as the boys are still awaiting their very cool purple jerseys.  Stay tuned for photos of the Orli Print Ravens in full uniform.)  And I was so awestruck that I couldn't get my camera to my eye fast enough to catch a picture of him in action, much less a video.

This post is really about his team, and a little bit about his coaches (one of whom happens to be his father).

I didn't watch a bunch of egos on the field.  I watched brothers who love each other.  I watched Jewish young men playing a very tough sport, but managing to keep their behavior under control, even under pressure.
Defensive Coach Orman talks with a couple of his players.
Pre-game drills 

Suiting up: our heroes came directly from Sabbath peace to the field of battle.

One of our gentle giants helps another.

"Fish" takes a little time to have a catch with a fan and future player.

"I hate pictures, Ema."  "You do your job, young hero, and let me do mine."  "Aarrggghhhh!"

Our littlest giant, with the biggest heart

One of the big, tough football players rescued this moth before the game, so a little life wouldn't be unnecessarily snuffed.  (Yeah, I'm talkin' about you, Didi.)

Head Coach Eastman gives the guys a pre-game talk about achdut and sportsmanship.

No, this is not a casualty.  A player knows he can count on a friend to help him stretch before the game.

Ravens kick off

Everybody loves seeing this referee with full beard and payot.

The very exciting game is over.  This is one of the moments when sportsmanship shines.  Final score:  Orli Print Ravens, 37.  The other guys, 6.

Coach gives a little post-game guidance about fair play to very respectful players.  I am so proud of these guys!

The Ravens congratulate each other on a game well played, and hear a short farewell speech from a fellow player.

Kozo, our phenomenal place-kicker, plays his last game until the championships.  He's being traded to the IDF.

Part of the Orli Print Ravens posing with Kozo.

The extra-point team -- the ONLY team to have kicked extra points in the league.  To the left of Kozo is Josh Kalman, the center.  Ari Levin (right) holds the football for the kick.  Unlike Lucy, he NEVER flinches.

Our fearless sponsor, the owner of Orli Print, and her son Binny "All Heart" Shushan

Our youngest loyal fan, and the father who actually lets him stay up for these games, Yarden Frankl.  Catch his blog at Crossing the Yarden, and his insightful commentaries on  Somewhere in that sea of white and black Ravens players is his son, Max.

Zack and his very proud papa
Coach tells the boys to let the scoreboard do their "trash talking" for them.
Go, Ravens!  See you at the Super Bowl!

Haveil Havalim #306: A MishMash is live at Frume Sarah's World.

Monday, February 21, 2011

"Blue-Eyed Angel"

Yom sheni, 17 Adar aleph 5771.

Because there is a certain amount of sadness in the air -- it's right around the third anniversary of the Mercaz HaRav massacre, about which I still cannot write; Gilad Shalit just passed his seventeen-hundredth day in captivity; memories of Mumbai are surfacing; and the world is teetering, teetering on who knows what -- I just don't have a post in me.

Fortunately, one's children can sometimes come to the rescue.

Here, for your entertainment, is a love song.  It is not religious.  It is not about anyone in particular.  The only thing Israeli or Jewish about it is that it was written and performed by a young IDF soldier I know and love.

Let me know what you think -- but as always with these nachas posts -- only if you love it.  :-)

Sara Lee's a girl who just turned sixteen
She likes to be alone
She knows that she ain't beautiful
She hides from everyone

Today she's sittin' on her favorite bench
In the corner of the school yard
Wishin' she could be just like them
Wishin' life wasn't so hard

Billy Joe's a boy who's new at school
Today is his first day
He stands at the edge of the school yard
He figures he'll just wait

He turns his head -- now what does he see
On a bench underneath the shade?
The most beautiful girl that he has ever seen
Oh and he just can't look away

He sees an angel with big blue eyes
Lord, he just can't look away
He's starin' at an angel with big blue eyes
Why can't Billy look away?

She's just eighteen years old, it's the school prom
Her dear mama begged her to go
Nobody's asked her to dance at the prom
She's wishin' she hadn't shown

Standin' in the middle of a thousand smilin' faces
She starts to feel so alone
She closes her eyes and dreams of a man
Starts dancin' on her own

Billy Joe walks in and looks around the room
Oh my -- what has he found?
Standin' in the middle, there's a beautiful girl
She's spinnin' round and round

He makes his way through the screamin' crowd
And makes his way over to her
Puts his hands around her and she opens up her eyes
Suddenly, Billy's lost for words

He sees an angel with big blue eyes
Lord, he just can't look away
He's starin' at an angel with big blue eyes
Why can't Billy look away?

It's seven years later, she married Billy Joe
They live together at home
Billy stayed home to watch over the kids
Sara Lee's out drivin' all alone

It was a dark and slippery night
A bitter cold winter
She never saw that thin black sheet of ice
Ten feet in front of her

Billy Joe's sittin' at the kitchen table
When the phone gives an angry scream
"Sir, would you please come to the county hospital.
There's been an emergency."

Billy Joe walks in, and Sara turns away
"Please don't look at me.
They said they did all that they could do.
And I don't want you to see."

Billy Joe walks over and puts a hand on her face
Says "Baby, look at me."
She turns her head, and he cannot help but smile
Says "Let me tell you what I see."

"I see an angel with big blue eyes
and I just can't look away
And I'm starin' at an angel with big blue eyes
And I swear I'll never look away."

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Dignity -- on both sides of the equation

Yom revi'i, 12 Adar aleph 5771.
Let me share an adventure in volunteerism with you, just because I suspect I'm not the only person who drags her feet about it due to embarrassment.

Just before we made aliyah, I bought a wonderful cookbook, purely as a result of a well-written review.  The Holocaust Survivor Cookbook has become a favorite -- but not just because of the delightful recipes.  It is a book filled with stories and photographs that take the empty place in my heart where bubbies and zaydies ought to be.

The book grew from the desire of two idealistic young olim, Sarah and Jonathan Caras, to "give something back to the people of their new homeland."  They volunteered  at the Carmei Ha'ir Soup Kitchen in Jerusalem in 2005.  Later, they brought their mothers to visit Carmei Ha'ir; and out of that experience, the seed for the cookbook project began its germination.

There was an article in the cookbook about the soup kitchen that impressed me a great deal.  Instead of the rows and rows of narrow tables and benches that one imagines (or has even seen in televised reports about such worthy charitable institutions), with the downcast and life-tossed homeless huddled over bowls of soup, Carmei Ha'ir has a special approach.  There goal is that each human being that is served at their facility have an experience of dining out at a "real" restaurant, with full dignity, elegance, and cuisine comparable to other dining establishments in the area.

The idea of participating in such a project intrigued me.  What Jew doesn't want to help someone, in some way?  It's coded into our spiritual DNA.  But here's the rub, and here's where the embarrassment starts.

Too much money is not something that the Borei Olam has plagued this family with.  So donating large sums is not something that we are very often able to do.  And I am shy about just walking into an establishment and saying "Point me to the kitchen!" as I roll up my sleeves.  Dining at the soup kitchen (which anyone is allowed to do, perhaps leaving the price the meal would cost in a regular restaurant) seemed like a fine beginning.  But again, I was embarrassed.

You know the feeling of using a service that some people really, truly need, when you don't?  What if I went in, and my clothes looked a little too nice?  Is it only me that thinks: "What right do I have to be here?  What does that poor fellow over there think of me?  'Oh, she must be slumming...  Taking a gander at the poor folk.'"  Well -- perhaps I do over-think a thing.  But the point is, I want to know "the rules," before I just pop by.

So I started to look over the Carmei Ha'ir website for clues.
 First of all, it is a beautiful website, user-friendly and informative.  I could have found out everything I needed to know by perusing its pages.  But that little button -- "Questions?  Chat with us now" -- is always an irresistible lure to me.  Why?  Because I have found, time and time again, that people who man live chat desks  are very often "my kind of people," who really want to help the "caller" to get clear answers.  And I write better than I talk over the phone, which reduces my embarrassment.  So I clicked on the little chat icon...  and what followed was more gratifying than I could have hoped for.

The gentleman on the other end of the chat was named Moshe.  He very pleasantly listened to me unburden myself of my concerns (thankfully a shorter version of what I just told you).

Then he asked me what skills I had to offer.  I was a bit surprised.  What skills does it take to peel potatoes?  And impressive skills such as counseling or cooking gourmet meals for fifty are not in my repertoire.  But after a bit of back and forth, it seems that writing and proof-reading are perfectly acceptable donations to an organization such as this -- as are other skills most of us take for granted.

The point of this blog post is this:  CALL.  Not just this organization (though I am sure they would be happy if you did), but any organization in your area that just might need your help.  Look for someone in the organization who can answer your honest questions about how you can help.  You may surprise yourself.

When you want to help someone, when you want to give of yourself, never be embarrassed by a lack of money.  Tzedaka b'guf -- the giving of charity by doing -- may be much less daunting than you think.

Aliyah: Jewish immigration to Israel
Bubbies and zaidies: grandmothers and grandfathers
Olim: Jewish immigrants to Israel
Borei Olam: Creator of the Universe

Monday, February 14, 2011

Silver Anniversaries. Some are tarnished. Some are golden.

Yom shlishi, 11 Adar aleph 5771.

We are awed by where G-d has brought us in our journey.

Twenty-five years ago, Jonathan Pollard went to prison.  Much argument has ensued over the decades about whether he deserved his fate or not.  But that man has spent 25 years in jail, for a crime that has held no other prisoner in a US jail for so long.

Twenty-five years ago, Natan Sharansky was freed from prison in the Soviet Union.  Like a boulder crashing down a mountain, the next few years changed the fate of Soviet Jewry forever.

Our second-born, shaking hands with Natan Sharansky at a simcha
Twenty-five years ago, our first son was born.  He was going to be a Heisman trophy winner, a great musician, a phenomenal chess champion.  (Okay -- a few years later, it became apparent we were putting too much on one kid; and we decided to ask G-d to give us a sibling for him, to share the burden of our expectations.)  Our eldest child and Natan Sharansky get a lot of credit for starting our spiritual journey.

An early beginning to a promising musical career -- Nachas alert: if you've got a few minutes, scroll down and listen to "City of Dreams" at least.

Big Brother no longer has to carry the entire burden.

Twenty-five years ago, our shul in Baltimore started to spread its loving and accepting brand of Chasidut.

A quarter of a century.  Some of my kids can't even fathom that.  (Joel, Sam, Jason and Josh -- explain it to them, could you?)  Lives change, nations change.  A lot, in twenty-five years.

May we share another twenty-five years...  in peace and harmony and good health.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

See you in the funny papers.

Yom rishon, 9 Adar aleph 5771.

"Efraim," by Yoni Kempinski of Arutz Sheva and BaSheva

Comics have a lot to offer, besides their entertainment value.  For someone who is learning a foreign language, they have the benefit of being short and to the point, as well as having lots of pictures to help explain the writer's message.  Comics are also a great way to begin to understand what matters to a culture.

"How great!  Finally, good news!"
"The Kinneret rose 8.5 centimeters"
"That's great, but Israel is still too dry."
"Right -- eight and a half centimeters is really not enough!"
"Need to save the Kinneret!"
"I need the ruler just for a minute..."
"Where is the number... Here it is -- I found it!"
"I have something important to send to the Kinneret!  What's the address?"
This is a country of people who watch the level of a lake, because it's success is ours.  This is a nation filled with lots of people who pray for rain when we haven't had as much as we hoped for.  This is the only place I've ever lived where little children, partying teenagers, and workers for whom it is inconvenient are unbelievably grateful when it rains.  They may gripe a little...  but they also say "Baruch Hashem."

"You who listen to prayer, grant dew and rain on the face of the earth, satisfying the whole universe from Your goodness...  Spare us and have compassion on us and on all our produce and fruit, blessing us with bounteous rain."

Haveil Havalim #304, The Blog Carnival Went Bust Edition, is up at The Rebbetzin's Husband's place. Don't forget to vote for the homeless shelter!  Tomorrow's the last day to vote!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A breath of hope in a sea of anxiety

Yom shlishi, 4 Adar aleph 5771.

We live in a region beset by justifiable paranoia.  I can only speak from my side of the argument, as I cannot possibly see inside of the other guy's head.

There is no way for a Jewish Israeli to know which of his Arab neighbors: A) likes him as a human being; B) hates him because he is a Jew; or C) is indifferent to him, and just wants to make a living and raise his kids.  So it is easy to paint with a single brush the entire people as The Enemy, and very hard (and historically sometimes dangerous) to give the benefit of the doubt.

Once in a while, a story comes along that reminds me that it's okay to believe that there are individuals within the greater Arab world who don't go along with the more outspoken masses.

Bedouin Sheikh Salam Hozeil, weeping at the vandalism of his protest tent
Such a story was broadcast on the most recent IBA News program.

"A protest tent for abducted IDF soldier Gilad Shalit was defaced [yesterday] in the early morning hours by spray-painted swastikas and the Palestinian flag.

"The tent was built and maintained by Bedouin sheikh Salam Hozeil at Beit Kama [Junction] in the Northern Negev two years ago.  According to Arutz Sheva, Hozeil witnessed what he believes to be young members of his tribe fleeing after committing the vandalism.
Hozeil being comforted

"Local police are investigating the incident, and say that the vandals also defaced photographs of Shalit at the tent.  Hozeil said that despite continued death threats from locals, which he believes are associated with Islamic Jihad, he will continue his advocacy until Gilad Shalit has been released from his Hamas captors."
Let's not forget the beauty of the Israeli newsman comforting the Arab!
When I am permitted to see the human face of the individual, I am reminded that we might actually all be related, and there may be hope for us yet.

The latest edition of the Kehila Carnival is live at Esser Agaroth!  As is The Best of the Jewish Blogosphere, Edition #303 of Haveil Havalim, over at Jack B.'s place.